I noticed this poster in the window of a women’s beauty parlour not far from where I live in Malaysia. It shows four leeches enjoying a meal on this woman’s face.
The use of leeches for medicinal purposes is well known and has been around since the ancient Egyptians. The saliva of leeches contains an anti-blood clotting agent which encourages blood to flow freely. The use of leeches is thought to be beneficial for people with circulation disorders and even to restore blood flow to surgically re-attached body parts.
But now their usage seems to have extended to beauty therapy. It is claimed that they can treat acne and remove ‘toxins’ from the body. What are toxins anyway? Do they really exist or are they just an invention of the alternative therapy industry?
The American actress Demi Moore is said to have tried leech therapy. I don’t know if she applied them to her face.
A few thoughts spring to mind:
- Why would anybody in Malaysia pay for leech treatment (RM120 per session) when they they can get it for free just by walking on any jungle trail?
- Leech bites tend to itch and excessive scratching can lead to nasty infections.
- Whose blood did the leeches last suck before you? Could they transfer diseases?
- What happens if they disappear up the customer’s nostril while the attendant is not paying attention?
- How does the shop feed the leeches when they don’t have any customers? Do the staff have to let the leeches feed on them?
It seems that Malaysians are happy to be eaten alive in the quest for beauty. First it was the fish spa (where tiny fish nibble hard skin from the feet and toes) and now it’s leech therapy. What next? Snake massage perhaps. In Israel there is a spa offering this treatment where customers try to relax while a colourful bunch of lethal-looking snakes writhes about over their bodies. (Just Google snake massage if you want to see the scary photos). There is no shortage of snakes in Malaysia if anyone wants to open a serpent spa. They tend to be rather poisonous though.